GDS Verify head Janet Hughes steps down

Follows Foreshew-Cain out the door

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Janet Hughes, the head of the government's much-delayed identity assurance scheme GOV.UK Verify, is stepping down.

In a blog post announcing the move, Hughes said it was time for the team to change and "for me to move on to new challenges, so I’m going to be leaving the Government Digital Service on Friday, 19 August."

Jess McEvoy will be taking over as programme director on an acting basis. She was previously head of policy and engagement, leading the Government Digital Service's team of analysts who work with services to help them adopt GOV.UK Verify.

Hughes said: "I’m very proud of everything we’ve achieved so far, and grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of the first few years of GOV.UK Verify’s development."

Earlier this year, Verify moved into its live stage. However, the scheme has been extremely late in getting off the ground.

Other departments, such as HMRC, are now building their own identity assurance alternatives to authenticate businesses who cannot use the Verify service.

HMRC's system will include the ability for individuals to authenticate themselves and nominate an accountant to do their tax returns. "HMRC's view on Verify is that it’s too slow and won’t ever handle businesses," said the insider.

Academics have also found that Verify contains "severe privacy and security problems" including a major architecture flaw that could lead to "mass surveillance".

Hughes took over as head of Policy & Engagement at the Identity Assurance Programme in June 2013.

Jerry Fishenden, co-chair of the Privacy and Consumer Advisory Group (PCAG), which advises the government on how to provide users with a secure means of accessing public services, said Hughes will be missed.

"She's always been very supportive of the work of the Privacy and Consumer Advisory Group – responsive, transparent and honest, even when we were critical of aspects of Verify. We need more professionals like Janet in government, not less."

Another contact close to GDS, who asked not to be named, said Hughes has been competent and committed to delivery.

Hughes said: "We’ve been fortunate to receive a huge amount of help and support from colleagues across government, in industry and among privacy and consumer groups, and I’m also very grateful for all of the support I’ve received personally in my role as programme director.

"Thank you all. I’ve learned a huge amount and it’s been an incredible privilege."

Her departure follows that of former GDS Stephen Foreshew-Cain, who was effectively given the boot by chief exec of the civil service John Manzoni. ®

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